Coronavirus crisis

Number of sick medical staff rises to 42, with over 3,000 quarantined

Diagnosed practitioners more than doubled in recent days, amid reports of equipment shortages and insufficient protection

Illustrative: Doctors and nurses treat a patient at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative: Doctors and nurses treat a patient at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Newly released Health Ministry figures showed the number of medical professionals infected and quarantined by coronavirus continued to grow Saturday, with 42 medical staff diagnosed with the virus and 3,030 in quarantine due to potential exposure.

Of those in isolation, 814 were doctors and 893 were nurses.

The figures showed the number of sick medical professionals had more than doubled over the past four days.

Recent days have seen rising criticism for the conditions in which medical practitioners have been forced to work in the pandemic, and the health system’s ill preparedness for the outbreak.

Medical workers have criticized the government and the Health Ministry for not providing them with adequate equipment to protect against catching the virus from the patients they are treating.

The head of the Mirsham association for medical interns, Rey Biton, wrote in a statement that due to the “failures” that have taken place, “entire wards have been closed, vital medical teams have gone into quarantine, and our most valuable resources, doctors, are going to waste.”

Illustrative: Workers inside a building at Tel Aviv’s Tel Hashomer Hospital, which was converted into a coronavirus isolation unit, February 20, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Times of Israel has learned some hospitals are so short on masks that staff are rationing them.

On Wednesday, a Channel 13 report said doctors, nurses and other hospital employees had testified about minimal protective gear at work.

“I get one mask for a shift,” said one. “If it’s ripped, I don’t get another.” Another said, “No gloves, no masks, no bathrobes and no disposable bed covers.”

The chairman of the Israel Medical Association, Professor Zion Hagay, called on the health system to “reorganize work in the hospitals immediately in order to protect the medical staff. The approach should be to work in small groups to reduce exposure and to ensure protection in all departments for all the staff.”

The Health Ministry in response to the criticism said in a statement earlier this week: “We are in constant contact with [the country’s] medical staff and are equipping them with additional protective gear.”

A Magen David Adom medical team member at a drive-through site for coronavirus testing, Tel Aviv, March 20, 2020. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

The ministry’s deputy director-general Itamar Grotto said Thursday that medical officials were facing shortages of swabs used in testing kits for the coronavirus, apparently delaying the number of tests able to be carried out throughout the country.

As of Saturday, Israel had 883 diagnosed coronavirus patients, with over 2,000 test being conducted a day and officials seeking to raise the number to 3,000 by early next week.

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